Generalizing Commands

Mama Sally:  Not a day goes by where I don’t hear the frustration from a dog owner about their dog’s stubbornness or lack of cooperation.  Usually, what happens is that the dog seems to comply with commands only when the dog wants to do so.  Many years ago, I would have felt the same way with my own dog.  However, as usual, Rugby has taught me to look at this differently.  There can be many different reasons that dogs don’t comply with commands, so let me give you some understanding on this, and it might help your own situation with your dog.  I’m going to address generalizing commands today.

rj begging sleeping 007
Sit/Stay…great focus!

The very first way that your dog learns a given command, sets it in stone in your dog’s mind.  He thinks every time he hears that specific command, it means exactly what it did the first time you taught it.  So, when you mix up the rules by creating a different environment, different distractions, etc. it doesn’t make sense to your dog, because that’s not the way that he learned it.  Dogs simply don’t generalize things well or easily.  It takes lots of repetition and careful exposure to new situations with a given command before a dog is able to generalize it enough that they will be fully reliable and consistent with it anywhere and anytime.

Another way to think of it is to think of how we humans can generalize colors.  We can quickly and easily understand that a specific color can take on different textures, hues, and apply to all kinds of items. Let’s just say that we could teach a dog the color yellow by showing him a tennis ball.  That dog now thinks that all tennis balls are yellow, and if he sees yellow, it must be a tennis ball.  It will take a very long time for him to recognize yellow in different hues and understand that different objects can also be yellow.  He’s not being stubborn or willful at all.  He just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Down stay helps in the kitchen

Be patient with your dog as he’s learning new things!  He’s trying as hard as he can to figure out what you want him to do.  When you train something, remember to change up the environment and slowly introduce distractions so that your dog can figure things out and come along with you.  If he’s not catching on, there’s a really good chance that you’ve gone too far, too fast.  Take a few steps back and start over.  Go more slowly, and you’ll get there with him!! Here’s Rugby’s two cents:

Rugby James:  I has had my lil paws full teaching the Mama all about this stuff.  She used to get so frustrated wif me, and it really caused a big problem for us in working togedder as a team.  Once she started to fink the best of me, it helped her to fink about udder fings what might be getting in the way of me being able to do what she wanted.

All doggers learn fings differently.  She kept trying to make me learn like her Schatsi had learned.  The problem was, that I wasn’t Schatsi, and I hadda whole lotta life that Schatsi never ever had!  He learned fings easier on account of he didn’t have bad stuff to sort frew before he could learn the new stuff.  It taked me sum extra time to sort stuff out, on account of I had learned stuff the Mama never wanted me to know.

Once I could see that she wasn’t gonna get frustrated wif me, I could relax while we were working togedder, and then we started to make good progress.  Anytime I doesn’t get sumping, the Mama’s first fought is:  “What is getting in the way” instead of:  “Why is he being so stubborn?”  Try to fink the best of your lil dogger!  He’s doing all that he can to figure out what you want him to do.  If the problems is too big for you to figure out togedder, be sure to call a professional trainer to help you sort it out.  It makes all the difference in the world!


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